Dive #41 and #42, diving off Mount Lavinia with Colombo Divers, Boatman Ravinda, Divemaster Jehan, and two American dive buddies whose names I cannot recall (as usual).
Parak Gala: Bottom time – 43 minutes; Depth – 22.1 meters
Snap! I stared disconcerted at the severed strap of my dive mask. A number of profanities raced through my head as I realized I had left my spare strap on land, in my backpack. The conditions were extremely rocky with white flecked grey waves all around us and there was no chance of getting back to shore to get my strap. Thankfully there was an extra mask in the boat and despite the bad fit I pulled it on and got into the water.
There I was made to wait for what seemed like an interminable time while the waves playfully slapped me in the face and smacked me up against the boat while my erstwhile dive buddies took their own cool time getting ready. Finally all geared and ready, we started to descend. Unfortunately the older of the American couple hadn’t dived for a long time and took all of Jehan’s and the other buddy’s help in getting down. I in the meantime amused myself by standing on my head while being treated to the amusing spectacle of Jehan riding on the back of the American guys tank to help keep him down.
Unfortunately the long hiatus from diving and the challenging conditions with a visibility of around 3m was too much for the American guy and he had to surface with Jehan supervising while the other lady and I were left below to complete our dive (she was a trained instructor as well). We had come to a new dive site to try it out but all we could find was patchy rocks amongst the sand. Since the reefs off Colombo ran north to south paralleling the shore we tried swimming in those directions to see how our reef lay. To my dismay it seemed like we had missed the reef all together and ended up on some random rocks.
Undeterred we explored the five or so small rocks that lay muddy brown on the bottom and were treated to an amazing amount of diversity in marine life amongst the nondescript bottom. My dive buddy spotted a Brittle Star http://www.aquaticsworlduk.com/images/T/brittlestar-01.jpg that was a wondering on the rocks, moving its feathery tentacles as it sought a refuge during the day. A few small white and black nudibranches, Phyllidiella zeylanica and Phyllidiopsis phiphiensis glistened in the silt, the size of my fingernail and almost impossible to spot. My mask was fogging up and extremely uncomfortable still but we still managed to spot a small juvenile Giant Moray, its jaws slender and sylph like in contrast to the brute strength they would personify when grown up. Also wonderfully camouflaged were two juvenile Scorpion fish, their brown tendrils matching the silty rocks to perfection. Actually this last was quite disconcerting as always, one touch on an innocuous piece of the reef could lay you up in hospital in excruciating pain.
Chastened into remembering to always be an aware diver, we wound up and fought through the chop back onto the boat.
Cargo Wreck: Bottom time – 46 minutes; Depth – 29.6 meters
We dropped the American couple back on shore because of a meeting they had to go for and Jehan and I headed out back to the Cargo Wreck. The weather had deteriorated somewhat and the chop was even stronger. Anchoring onto the wreck it was apparent we would have to descend in a strong current which whipped at my mask and reg as we went down the line hand over hand.
Getting to the wreck we were greeted by around 4m of visibility and as we swam down the ghostly ship, an etch in the blue ocean we were greeted by a huge sand patch that the current had pushed out from underneath the ship. You could see the swirl of water coming through and pulling Snappers under and over the bottom of the ship. Noting that it would be quite unpleasant being stuck under a shipwreck we moved up the ship out of harms way. Jehan took a small break to swim into the ship a bit while I hung around and watched him swim around for a bit from a porthole. We then swam into one of the huge cargo holds and hung there in the semi-darkness, watching what looked like gigantic Snappers and Wrasses swimming around a few meters away from us. The gloom meant we could only see a distant silvery shimmer in the blackness as the fish moved around. A spooky experience which was heightened by the fact that I was again having issues with the uncomfortable replacement mask (I had left my extra strap at home).
Swimming out back into daylight with a sense of relief we were surprised to see three very large Porcupine fish hanging out by the mast, a new site for me as the ones I had seen before were usually fairly small and down at the bottom of the wreck. To top off what was undoubtably an eerie dive, we took up the anchor and left around 5m of line so we could maintain our depth during our safety stop.
With the anchor off the bottom, the boat was pushed along with the current and it was an eerie experience to hang on, the water seemingly whipping past us, blurrily blue as we hung in the middle of the giant expanse of the ocean. Quite a humbling experience actually, on how small an individual really is in this big blue planet.